You may have already heard, or maybe you just read the title of this post - it's National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. This year is my first time really recognizing its significance, especially in my life, because last year at this time I hadn't come to terms with a) accepting my ED story and b) understanding that (at the time) I wasn't fully recovered. Last summer, I opened up here about my entire story, which you can read here, but I didn't spend much time talking about how I recovered and the effect that left me with. So, let's unwrap that package a little bit more.
I'll pick up in the middle of my story - just after the doctor diagnosed me. She referred me to a therapist and my mom and I drove to one or two sessions a week for about two weeks. I'd sit like someone stuck a fiery stick up my butt (sorry if that's TMI, but it basically means angry and uncomfortable) and answer each question quickly, without giving much thought to admitting that I really wasn't happy with my body, or the possibility that maybe I was craving a sense of control, power, and outward appearance. My number one goal at these sessions was to prove to the therapist and my mom, as quickly as possible, that I did not have a disorder. Pride wanted to make sure that everyone knew that I had it all together, that I had... control.
Soon enough, we stopped attending the therapy sessions and instead turned to a nutritionist who designed a meal plan for me. Up the calories, increase the variety, and just keep eating - that was our goal. This definitely pushed me towards steps in the right direction, but I still hadn't confronted the underlying cause of my ED, probably because I wasn't sure exactly what that was. Without her meal plan, I'm sure recovery would have taken even longer, but I've been thinking lately about how my recovery was affected by going about it without therapy.
To say that I was forced to conquer this battle alone would be a lie - God blessed me with His presence and the support of family and friends from the very beginning. In a way, however, I chose to try to handle much of it on my own, just because I'm stubborn, sometimes prideful and too confident, and as much as I wanted to win this mental/emotional/spiritual battle of an ED, I wanted my prize to magically allow me to stay the same weight and jean size, with the same amount of muscle tone, etc. but without negatively affecting my health like it already was. I didn't want my friends and family to worry anymore, but I didn't want to change or compromise the looks that had me bursting with confidence for the first time in years.
In other words, I went from anorexia to orthorexia. Constant calorie tracking determined what and how much I ate. Sure, I ate more than I did before, but at this point, it felt worse because I thought each meal - each bite - had to fit within a certain calorie/fat/protein/etc. range.
Each day and its activities centered around what I would eat. I try not to say that I have regrets or that I wish something hadn't happened, but as I look back on that period of... wow... more than one year of my life, I wish I had opened my eyes to see beyond what was on my plate. To enjoy the richness of relationships, the lusciousness of laughter, the silliness of spontaneity.
Freedom. More specifically, freedom of surrender. I've called myself a Christian for ten years, but only recently have I begun to fill those shoes and pursue a relationship with God. Communicating with Him, listening to Him, and expressing my gratitude for this simple life have become my daily goals. As I've lifted those to the top of my priorities, I've dropped food (and calories and fat and weight and all that jazz) to a far lower level, even as I transitioned into a vegan lifestyle. I've loosened, if not completely let go of, my grip on food as my source for security, confidence, and happiness. Releasing that grip was terrifying and unknown, but God grabbed me with both of His hands the minute I recognized that they were there.
To be completely honest, that was about two months ago. I'm a little shocked that I've just realized this, but that means that my eating disorder (anorexia, orthorexia, and all) lasted for almost three years, when I thought I'd recovered two years ago. I held my body back from its full potential for so long, trying condition it to want only x amount of calories, to power through exhausting workouts almost everyday, to squeeze it and mold it into a shape God made for someone else. Just like I've developed my relationship with God, I've opened up a rarely-before-used line of communication with my body. Everything from colds and coughs, to muscle aches and joint pains, to stress and body-shaming thoughts are my body's way of getting my attention, and I'm finally listening.
A couple weeks ago, God put it on my heart to write a love letter to my body, and in it, I apologized for this mistreatment, thanked it for its endurance, and reflected on its achievements, despite the challenges I set before it. That letter was, by far, one of the most significant steps I've taken in recovery.
I just wanted to share with you guys a bit more of my story, because I know that all of ours are unique and if this helps even one person, then that's enough. If you or anyone you know is going through an eating disorder, don't go it alone. No one has to and no one should. By letting down my guard to allow the people God placed in my life to help and to allow Him to fill the holes in my spirit, I was finally able to fully recover. I surrendered, and I found freedom. I found deeper love for myself and for God than I could have ever imagined possible.
And as for the rest of this post, I want to let God speak. Rid your surroundings of as many distractions as possible right now and allow God's words to speak as loudly as possible.
These are some of the verses I've found most comforting and encouraging throughout the past three years, and I couldn't think of a better way to close off this post than by allowing God to take over, as that's what I've done in kissing my ED goodbye :)
Please know that you're not alone in your struggle, and there are resources available for you to find help. Turn to family and friends, to teachers and coaches, or click here. God loves you too much to place you here on this earth alone.